High Anxiety 14

Just because you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean I tried to make you uncomfortable. Was it something I said?  Was it something I did? Or did the mere fact that I showed up as me in this skin I’m in and you don’t know how to deal with people like me (as if I were a deck of cards that had to be dealt) that makes you uncomfortable? Or is it something unrelated to me?

In recent consulting and work settings, I’ve met a number of people who suffer from anxiety.  They have difficulty making eye contact; they don’t speak even when spoken to, even though they see you several times a week.  These are not people who have a diagnosis on the autism spectrum.  They were hired in positions that require communicating with colleagues and the public.  In my observation of at least two of them, they are selective when they speak or don’t speak, engage or don’t engage.

But, there’s more.

A few months ago, I facilitated a retreat where 9 of the 13 participants shared, in response to a homework assignment they were given, that they suffer from anxiety.  I was floored by this especially since they also shared that they grew up in middle-to-upper class communities, with solid families (all but one or two in two-parents households, and were college grads (most with master’s degrees) all of whom were employed. They were all what I consider attractive.  Communication in their department in their organization was colored by these high levels of anxiety.

I’ve also heard about high-anxiety from other Black and Latinx acquaintances closer to my generation whose kids also suffer from anxiety.  They, too, are from privileged backgrounds.  Their parents worked hard so that these children didn’t have to suffer or struggle like the parents did in their youth.  They moved them out of the city into suburban communities where they are not part of the majority.  They sent them to private or the best public schools and still their children suffer from uncertainty, hesitancy and anxiety.

I don’t understand.  I don’t relate.  I made some quick judgments about this, some deeply felt.  And then I begin to think more deeply about this.

Today’s young adults and youth live in a world of insecurity such that I never had at their age.  No institution is sacrosanct for them – not the schools, or the church, or the family, or the college campus, or the church. They go to schools in a time where instead of Fire Drills there are active shooter drills. They go to colleges that must provide offer training on what to do if the school is on lock-down as well as what do about sexual harassment and rape. They live in a time with atrocities all over the world are shared constantly on social media, television, print media, radio, etc.

How would I be if I had been raised in such an era of overwhelming uncertainty?  In my youth, my concerns were mostly about family, if I’d get into college, if my parents would ever let me date, and how to overcome my fear of driving. Despite having some bad things happened while growing up, at the same time, there was so much love and a general feeling of safety that I managed to suck up and squash the bad and move on through the good.  The times were safe enough that this unprepared nerd could navigate naiveté, survive poor/stupid/dumb choices, and grow stronger.

I also feel that it was beneficial for media to have a more limited role in my life. I grew up in a time without a constant barrage of celebrity as aspirational role-model, wealth as the end-all-be-all, and elevation of the weird and unsavory just for voyeurism and ratings. I was not deluged with articles and videos instructing me to be more, to be better, and comparing me to people who I was not. Trash media and gossip were restricted to gossip columnists and not part of legitimate media.  Nowadays nearly every news vehicle pedals gossip and innuendo as much as fact or truth.

In addition to the societal anxieties they carry, I see young people having anxiety just going through the day:

  • Anxiety because there might be traffic
  • Anxiety because there is traffic
  • Anxiety about how they look
  • Anxiety whether you’ll get the job
  • Anxiety now that you’ve got the job
  • Anxiety about what others think
  • Anxiety here and there, it loops everywhere.

No matter what you decide to do: counseling, meditation, exercising, prayer, or medication at the bottom, top and throughout, you are still the one who has to make the decision to do counseling, to meditate, to exercise, to pray, and/or to take medication.  You have to make the decision that you am not going to let this job, this boss, this organization or company, or these people raise your anxiety.  It is never the only job in the world or the only way to make a living or the only love you can have.  And, nearly everyone around you experiences some uncertainty. You have to learn to adopt one of the most profound quotes ever from the movie, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” where The Lady Chablis says, “It’s like my mother always said: “Two tears in a bucket, motherfuck it.”

This could go on and on but I’ll stop. I will say that opening my arms, offering a listening ear, and a bit of advice and help has been welcomed by several young people who’ve come my way through work and the referral of friends and acquaintances.  They hear me because I’m not their Mom even though I could be. I treasure being a mentor even though I’m still figuring this living good, meaningful, positive, happy and fun life stuff out myself.  Feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

(Coming soon will be some posts about…well, you’ll see.  I’m taking off the gloves and writing some things I’ve been meaning to say.)

If you like this post, you might also like:

Sorting for the Good


How to Help a Child with an Anxiety Disorder

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers



About Candelaria Silva

Candelaria Silva-Collins is a marketing, community outreach and programming consultant; writer; and trainer/facilitator who lives in Boston, Massachusetts. She has designed and facilitated workshops on a wide variety of topics including communication, facilitation, job search skills, team building, and parenting issues. She currently coordinates the Community Membership Program of the Huntington Theatre Company. Her work as Director of ACT Roxbury was profiled in several publications, including The Creative Communities Builders Handbook. Candelaria’s children’s stories, short stories, essays and reviews have been published in local and national publications and she is an active blogger. Her publications include the booklets, Handling Rejection; Pushing through Shyness: Networking Tips when You’re Shy, Slow to Warm Up or Just don’t Feel you Belong; and Real Questions about Sex & Relationships for Teens: A Discussion Guide for Parents. She has served on the boards of Goddard College, Wheelock Family Theatre, Boston Foundation for Architecture, and Discover Roxbury. She is currently Chair, Designators of the Henderson Foundation.

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14 thoughts on “High Anxiety

  • Helen Credle

    I’m feeling ya Candelaria on this one… BIG TIME.
    My focus these days is on the Mindful Self-Management for Older Growing Adults.
    In your dissertation, it struck my core, that many of the anxieties demonstrated within the core of these young souls are quite similar to our older growing seniors.
    We, the older growing, had to first admit that we are living in the middle of outside edges.
    A phenomenon that we woke up one morning without the mindset of being “woke”. We laugh a lot at this one… how it caught US off guard.
    Sooooooooo what we did was agree to make agreements with ourselves that we would practice ways that offer support in the way we managed this phenomenon.
    The first one we agreed to tackle was “Always Do your Best”
    We realize that our best is going to change from moment to moment.
    That doing our best would be different when we are healthy as opposed to sick.
    However, we agreed to practice, that under any circumstance we would simply do our best so that we could avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.
    Just sharing how potent this post was to Older Growing Seniors like me!!!!!

    • Candelaria Silva Post author

      Thank you for this thoughtful response that makes connections in a way that I hadn’t intended. “Always Do your Best” and “Be Better” was ground into me regularly throughout my adolescence. I see I was not alone.

      • Helen Credle

        Candelaria…Your parents were wise and quite wonderful.
        The results of their rearing of you are obvious in your classic character, introspective thoughtfulness, insightful actions, and words that I’ve found, more often than not, to be impeccable.
        To be remembered and to further keep in mind,Is that our best is never going to be the same from one moment to the next.
        Everything is alive and changing all the time, so our best will sometimes be high quality, and other times it will not be as good.
        When we awake refreshed and energized in the morning, our best will be better than when we are tired at night.
        Our best will be different when we are healthy as opposed to sick; it will depend on whether we are feeling wonderful and happy, or angry and upset.
        In our everyday moods our best can change from one moment to another, from one hour to the next, from one day to another.
        Our best will also change over time, but keeping doing our best – no more and no less than our best.
        If we try too hard to do more than our best, we will spend more energy than is needed and in the end our best will not be enough.
        When we overdo, we deplete our bodies and go against ourselves, and it will take us longer to accomplish our goals.
        This is the practice!!!!!

  • christlejack

    I appreciate what you’re addressing. It needs to be talked about. Living in this world of such uncertainty and chaos is a challenge for us all. In my travels it’s not just young people who are feeling it. Many people I encounter who are older are suffering from anxiety and in many cases they have been carrying it with them since childhood. The burden of prejudice and racism also plays a role whether you acknowledge it or not. It’s always there.

    • Candelaria Silva Post author

      You’re right that the anxieties don’t just plague young people and can impact people all their lives. My mom sent me a text about this post. She wrote that she is “wondering if it’s okay to shop…will there be a drive-by shooting” or “going to a market, if somebody’s going to be drugged up in the store”; and “at church, hoping no fool comes in.” We live in anxious times. I know that not bathing myself too much in negative media helps. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

  • DeeDee

    As always, you’re on point. As I’m on the train to and from work, I find myself counting how many people, on the train, are on their phones. Heads down, pupils dilated darting back and forth across the screen and I say to myself ‘self, this is why there is no empathy in the world for the living human being. Technology albeit goodevil (yep, that’s my word for it), has stolen our feelings, our compassion’. I believe anxiety is a result of no human interaction on the deepest, intimate level. You can’t feel if you don’t look into my eyes on a daily basis. You can’t feel if your cell phone is the only ‘THING’ you touch. Social media has one feeling inadequate because we don’t look like, attain like, the beyonces’, kardashians’ or any of the other numerous people some believe have it all. When will the human being resurface?

    • Candelaria Silva Post author

      You make very salient points. There are lots of people who don’t have human interaction beyond the superficial and technology certainly can be a tool to keep humanity at a distance. You can interact without really interacting. I find it awkward to have good conversations on the phone because I’ve fallen out of practice. My friends and I used to speak on the phone daily. Now, weeks can go by without conversation. I miss the calls. I find myself startled when I get a call instead of an email or text sometime and I certainly have startled others when I’ve called them. Newer technology has changed human behavior – from looking at a device rather than being present at the event or in the conversation to walking and reading at the same time.
      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Elizabeth Nagarajah

    Thank you for sharing these thoughts. I do often offer help to those around me who are willing to talk about what causes them anxiety. Anxiety is real for so many and I do hope that anyone struggling gets help